The following is an excerpt from a stand alone story I’m writing. The working title is ALONG THE WATCHTOWER. And, yes, if anyone is curious, the name is taken from the Bob Dylan song, made famous by Jimi Hendrix, but most awesomely arranged and performed by Bear McCreary in Battlestar Galactica.
Some scenes just come to you, full formed. This one, while only part of a much larger exchange, sprung into my head almost fully formed. The dream Mycroft describes is a place holder, taken from a dream I had during college.
I laughed, hiding my head in my face.
“What is it?” asks Mary, tilting her head inquisitively.
“It’s just… I’m reminded of that movie, Sunshine. There’s a line in it. About dreams. Cilian Murphy is talking with- she played Cassie…”
“Rose Byrne.” Mary takes a sip of her drink.
“Right. Her. She says ‘the only dream I ever have. Every time I close my eyes, it’s always the same.'”
“She’s talking about falling into the sun,” protests Mary. She can see where I’m going with this. Doesn’t matter. I have to finish.
“No, you’re right. Except, this dream. Recently, it’s the same one I’ve been having over and over. Except, it’s not. There’s just something familiar about the whole thing and how it plays out.”
“Tell me the rest.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Alright.
The girl. She notices me. Somehow, I don’t really know how. Looking out the window, I’m crouched beneath the window cill. She shouldn’t be able to see me. But she does. She beckons me to enter. Not for the others in the room, whom I don’t recognize, but for her. And thus I do enter.
Their backs are to the walls. There is literally no movement from that. They talk and discuss, only their heads moving. But that isn’t the strangest thing I see. The strangest, and this you’ll remember is taken in the context of being awake, is that their dress and decor is that of the Victorian era. The hair, the suits, the dresses. The chandelier, the paintings on the wall, the trim, the crown molding. All of it was of that time. Nothing is out-of-place.
“Why is it strange? Didn’t you say the house was Victorian too?”
“Why am I dreaming of the past?”
“For you?” She smiles. “And not of the stars? Are they not connected for you, in all your dreams?”
“Only the ones you know of.”
“I know of all your dreams.”
Okay, that one was true.
There’s fear in the air as well. It isn’t just… the simple joy and excitement the girl expressed upon her notice of me is missing. Tension is building. It isn’t a disagreement; survival. Something is happening that they don’t know, and can’t explain but can sense. No one will turn their heads from the wall. This tension, that’s what’s causing it. They’re afraid if they turn their heads or stand, something will happen.
A single door, fifteen feet tall, stands opposite the entrance I walked through. That’s where the danger comes from, the tension. But I can’t stand, not to look or explain. And then, before I can realize it, the door bursts open. Adults. They’ve made their way into the room. The back of the neck is their target. It feels like if they bite us, they see it as a right of some sort. But the children are too fearful to understand.
The girl and I run, at first through the door, among the adults, their teeth bared. Never bitten, never caught. And then, as sudden as the room was invaded, we are among the stars. Traveling faster and faster until all around us are the blazing pureness of color, wisps and strands of light, bending in the solar winds.
A War of Light.
Mary smiles at me. I don’t know why she keeps doing that. It feels as if she knows she understands me secretly.
“I had a dream too,” she says. “Not the same one. Though the ending makes me kind of wish… anyway, you made me think about it.”
“what was it?”
“I can’t remember all of it. At least, the inception seemed a little weird.”
“Really?” I raise an eyebrow. I seem to do that a lot today. “I told you mine. Can yours really be that much stranger?”
“I suppose not.”
“See? This is what I’m saying.”
“There was something about dragons. I know that much. Not those bloody European ones. Those are ugly. I mean the majestic, beautiful kind. The ones from east Asia. Magnificent serpents dancing in the sky with whiskers that could of flow rivers.
“It’s a school too. Not for magic. In fact, I’m not really sure what it was. But, I know I was an upper class student. And, I’m teaching a younger student how to ride this dragon. This is the only part I actually remember. The whole school and class thing I just sort of understand about the world of my dream.
“Here’s the thing I really remember. Vividly. The dragons scales are the color of the rainbow. Not those lush colors though, that you always see depicted. I mean the real rainbow. Pale and pure, like the sunset. Almost like they’ve faded and bleached but still pure and true. We’re sitting on this dragon, and the boy is in front of me. Bareback, he’s flying this mighty beast, and he’s laughing as the our cloths flap in the wind, the exhilaration of rising and riding so overwhelming. And I can feel, I can remember my first time on a dragon. The first time felt that. I feel this and know what he’s feeling.”
Silence falls between us. There’s something she’s not saying, that almost resonates with me.
“It’s a nice dream,” I tell her, an offering.
“I’ve had it before,” she says.
“Huh?” Did she mean her dream? Of the dragon and boy? Surely not.
“Your dream,” she clarified. “I had it once. Long ago. On the day I woke to first meet you.” She shook her head. “I hadn’t remembered it until just now, despite how strange it seemed.”
“All dreams seem strange when you wake from them.”
“That’s why I thought nothing about it.”
I leaned forward, resting my hands on entwined fingers. “Tell me, what does a lady such as you dream of?”
“I was in a room. In all honesty, I couldn’t have told you what it looked like. But it felt very proper. Very Victorian. I… sit there in the room, and it’s full of friends, but I feel alone. Then, suddenly, there’s a knocking at the window. Outside was a boy, childish but adorable, someone I had never met before, yet expecting. My heart leaps and I know I am to let him in. So I do.”
“Oh…” is all I think to say.
You know how you can tell when it’s just an awkward silence instead of a comfortable one? It’s that time when everyone always feels like they should say something, so their eyes dart around or the corner of their mouths twitch just slightly, as they look for the moment to say something, without appearing like they need to say something. It’s the movement of their clothes, the tension in their hand, how their shoulders, still the same as moments before, suddenly appear tense and rigid. That’s this moment.
I take the time to study her. It’s not as if I haven’t seen her face a thousand times before. I have. Probably literally in the last four years. Her pale ginger hair, with layers of strawberry blond. It’s almost a fiery red, I would think, with those hints of golden flecks, just like the flames. She has oval glasses, the frame face wonderfully and, behind those simple metal rimmed shields, her green eyes, almost emerald they’re so pure. And she has some light freckles. Not a lot at the moment, but in the summer, they’ll be like rabbits, multiplying and getting darker as they shed their winter coat. She’s got a cute face too. Not just skin and bones, too little fat. No, she looks like she knows when to enjoy a good cheeseburger. Kind of like Kaylie from Firefly. Not heavy, not overweight, but not thin as a rail either. She’s a healthy weight. And if she heard me thinking that, I’d get smacked.
“You’re in love with Emma,” she says after a moment.
“What?” I look up from my observations, partially not paying attention, partially thinking I must have misheard.
“You’re in love with Emma,” she repeats.
“Mary…” I looked at her, trying to hide the pain, “I can’t be.”
“Why not?” She tilted her head, obviously confused.
“Because she’s Gavin’s and he’s her’s.”
“Oh…” she said, in that half sigh, half pity, half understanding (but not realization understanding) way, drifting off as she whispered my name. “You silly boy. You silly silly boy. You are in love with my sister. And that rational you just gave me would never, ever, in a million years, fool me for an instant of a moment in a second.”
“Mary…” I try to get to her to stop. “How did you know?”
“It’s… obvious…” she says, as if that explains everything. “Especially when you know what you’re looking for.” Her hand is gently placed on mine. “And it’s okay.” She peers at me strangely. I can feel something off about her gaze. There are slight beads of condensation on her forehead. Is she nervous? “What’s it like?” she asks, finally. “To be totally in love with someone and not have them know you exist? Not really.”
How do I answer that? It’s a trap question, I can feel it. The answer I give her is not the one she’s looking for, yet it will give her her answer, whatever that happens to be at the moment. It’s strange. Staring at her, there are things I want to tell her, things that she should and should not know. In the stories I read, she’s the girl everyone knows is the right girl but it never works. Because the main character always loves someone else already. Or because they’re simply blind to the simple truths that the world would present them. You know, the person you’re scared to tell, because it will ruin everything. Or that you get along with so well but don’t, can’t feel anything for. No matter how much you want to?
Her eyes are dancing with a fire that is no reflection of the hearth and yet, still as real and intense.
“It’s like the perception filter in Doctor Who. They don’t notice you, can’t notice you, like there’s a part of them that knows you exist but doesn’t want to.” I sighed into my mug. “It’s all rather confusing.”
She patted me on the hand. “I know,” she said, look at me. She has a strange look on her face. Not unusual, she’d been giving it to me a lot recently. I wasn’t really sure what it meant. Not that I mattered. I tended to get looks from everyone. “It’s not like that at all though. You can walk through the school hallways and never think that anyone knows who you are. And then, one day, you realize they do. That you’ve cross their path and you’re not a shadow on the wall. Between you and me? I’d want your place.”
Everyone has their own way of looking at things. That’s true for the most part. But everyone, more importantly, has their way of looking at people. It’s the same expression, most people think. Of course, it’s carefully honed without the person ever knowing that it’s happening. And no one ever knows that they’re looking at someone specially. Why would you? No one stares at a mirror all day practicing expressions; well, no one except actors. And certainly not regular kids from high school. The person who you’re looking at doesn’t know that you’ve got a special look that you only give them. After all, you don’t tend to look at how other people are looking at other people and the way someone looks at you is just the way they look at you. Why would you compare it? It’s like someone’s shoes. Nondescript but the way you wear it can tell you a lot about a person.
Standing to leave, I try to pay at the counter, but Mary stops me. Guiding my hand down, she pays the girl at the register instead. I watch her carefully. The way she stops me, the grace she paid with, the coolness of demeanor. She had practiced that.
“You know,” I say, “In my dreams, I think, it’s always you.”
“Oh, Mycroft,” she says. “As you always say, we are mirrors. How can you tell?”
“Dreams… They’re always about the sensation and perception, the feeling, rather than the details. I know it’s you, because they’re my dreams.”
She looked away quickly, in what I can only assume is hiding something. I have no idea what she would hide from me. For all the closeness with Tobias and Gavin or Maggie and Emma, Mary is my best friend. Well, Gavin’s my best friend, but that’s not the point. When Mary asks, I do it. Maybe I’m trying to make up for some deficiency, maybe it’s because I’m ashamed to be in love with her sister when my best friend loves her. None the less, she tells me everything and I tell her everything. I suppose that’s how you can end up discussing being in love with someone’s sibling without recrimination. It’s not like guy talk, not really, but it’s close enough for jazz.
I leave her at 10th street to walk back to my family’s place. She’ll take a ride back on the 23.